Hong Kong (AFP) – Asian markets sank Monday on growing concerns of a sharp hike in US interest rates as officials struggle to contain runaway inflation, while oil was hit by expectations Chinese demand will dry up owing to Covid lockdowns.
The losses extended a sell-off across the world last week fueled by comments from Federal Reserve boss Jerome Powell indicating officials will hike borrowing costs by half a point next month and possibly several times more by year’s end.
Investors have been fleeing risk assets as they become worried that the tightening — to fight inflation at more than 40-year highs — will knock the pandemic economic recovery off course and dent companies’ bottom line.
With earnings season under way, a close eye is being kept on what firms say about the impact on and the outlook for business in light of inflation, forecast rate hikes, supply chain snarls and the Ukraine war.
“There has been little to avert the investor pessimism as inflation and interest rate expectations start to bite,” Geir Lode, at Federated Hermes, said.
“In particular due to the uncertainty of the macro environment, expectations are low with regard to forward estimates and guidance, building on lowered expectations from the previous quarter.”
All three main indexes on Wall Street ended more than two percent down Friday, and Asia followed suit with hefty losses.
Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taipei all fell more than two percent, while Tokyo, Seoul, Singapore, Manila and Jakarta were also deep in the red.
Sydney and Wellington were closed for holidays.
Oil markets were also sharply lower as China continues to struggle to get a grip on a Covid outbreak that has forced Shanghai — the country’s biggest city — into lockdown and dealing a blow to demand.
Officials in the finance hub reported 39 deaths Sunday, its highest daily toll despite weeks of strict containment measures, while Beijing warned of a “grim” situation as infections rise.
WTI fell below $100 a barrel, even as the war in Ukraine hits supplies of the black gold owing to embargoes on Russian exports.
“Oil is rerating lower due to the China consumption hit while the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates to slow down the US economy,” said Stephen Innes at SP Asset Management.
“Those are two gusty headwinds suggesting some oil bulls will give way to recession fears and demand devastation.”
The lockdowns in China are adding to the inflation surge as they continue to hit supply chains.
On currency markets, the euro was unable to hold a brief rally that came on the back of Emmanuel Macron’s victory in France’s presidential election, seeing off far-right challenger Marine Le Pen.
Key figures at 0230 GMT
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 1.9 percent at 26,578.70 (break)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: DOWN 2.6 percent at 20,099.04
Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 2.3 percent at 3,017.10
Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 2.5 percent at $103.94 per barrel
West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 2.6 percent at $99.40 per barrel
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0787 from $1.0801 late on Friday
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 128.50 yen from 128.51 yen
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2799 from $1.2834
Euro/pound: UP at 84.27 pence from 84.14 pence
New York – Dow: DOWN 2.8 percent at 33,811.40 (close)
London – FTSE 100: DOWN 1.4 percent at 7,521.68 (close)
© 2022 AFP